March 22, 2018

Preview Of The Enemy: Oakland Raiders

To borrow a line from one of my favorite TV shows (Dexter), “Tonight’s the night, and it’s going to happen again and again.” This should be the week the Texans snap their franchise record seven game losing streak. This should be the game when we finally see the Texans score again and again. However, that’s just on paper and every Texans fan knows their team has shown the tendency to make mediocre players look great and get beat by what should not beat them.

How do they match up with Oakland? Here’s my breakdown.



Running Game – The Raiders currently rank sixth in rushing yards per game and third in yards per carry, but those numbers were earned with Terrelle Pryor in the lineup. Pryor is listed as questionable for the game but practiced on Thursday after missing practice on Wednesday. My guess, if he’s able to split reps on Thursday, he’ll play on Sunday. If Pryor doesn’t play on Sunday, that would be a crushing blow to the Raiders chances to beat the Texans. Pryor is the Raiders leading rusher both in yards and yards per carry by a wide margin.

In the one game this season that Pryor did not start (Matt Flynn), the Raiders rushed for 104 yards on 4.0 yards per carry. In the eight games Pryor has started this season, the Raiders have averaged 148 rushing yards per game on 5.0 yards per carry; huge difference. Regardless of who starts or gets the bulk of the carries at running back, the Raiders aren’t capable of beating the Texans with only a traditional run game. The quarterback keeping the ball on the zone-read option play is obviously a threat, but it also holds the backside defender to open up lanes for the running backs when Pryor hands it off. If Matt McGloin starts or plays most of the game, the Raiders run game will be dramatically less effective.

Stopping the Run – The strength of the Raiders defense is right up front. Oakland currently ranks seventh in rushing yards allowed per game, they’re tied for fifth in yards per carry allowed this season, and have allowed only one run of over 20 yards (tied for first with Baltimore). If the Raiders defense has a chance to cause the Texans a problem, it will be with their run defense.

In the six games before Kansas City, when Arian Foster’s injuries became a big enough problem to keep him from playing, the Texans averaged 136.8 rushing yards per game. In the three games since, the Texans have averaged just 97.3 rushing yards per game. Not being able to run the ball effectively hurts the Texans in several ways. First, a lot of their passing game is based off of play action; if they can’t run the ball, that will be less effective. Second, with Keenum and a struggling running game, we’ve seen the Texans take more snaps out of the shotgun with 3+ receivers. Like sharks smelling blood in the water, their opponents have ramped up the pressure when they’ve seen those formations. Wade Smith and Derek Newton have played poorly in pass protection this year, so taking out a tight end or fullback that might block and putting in a receiver instead, puts those guys in one on one situations they’re incapable of winning right now. The Texans need to make their opponent at least respect the threat of their run game to keep them from pinning their ears back and coming after Keenum with the all out blitzes that have been very effective recently.



Putting Points on the Board – For all the things the Raiders do well in the run game, they’ve been very inefficient this season with their passing game. That lack of production through the air (rank 31st in passing yards per game, 31st in passing touchdowns), is a large reason why they currently rank 29th in points per game. In nine games this season, the Raiders have only scored more than 21 points once; if the Texans can get to 24, the game is over. Here’s a crazy stat: Peyton Manning is responsible for 204 points this season (33 touchdown passes, 1 rushing touchdown); the Raiders have scored just 166 points this season (16 total touchdowns).

Stopping the Pass – The Raiders struggle with the passing game isn’t exclusive to the offensive side. Oakland currently ranks 22nd in passing yards allowed per game, 26th in passing touchdowns allowed, 24th in interceptions, and 29th in opponent QB rating. Keep in mind this is the same defense that gave up 7 touchdown passes in three-quarters, at home, to Nick Foles two weeks ago. To put it simply, if the Texans can protect Keenum, he should have a monster game.



Texans 24
Raiders 13

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